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Let's Talk About the CG Characters in Rogue One

Illustration for article titled Lets Talk About the CG Characters in iRogue One/i

With the opening weekend of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story finally behind us, there are a great many things to talk about. On the internet, though, one conversation has seemingly risen above them all: the movie’s CG characters.

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Star Wars is no stranger to computer generated characters, obviously—Jar Jar Binks in The Phantom Menace was the first fully CG character ever—but if you’ve seen Rogue One, you realize they took things one step further. But was it too far?

Illustration for article titled Lets Talk About the CG Characters in iRogue One/i
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Rogue One has three prominent CG characters. The first is K-2SO, a droid performance captured on set by Alan Tudyk, who isn’t an issue because robots and mechanical things always look fine in CG (assuming they’re done well). The same can’t be said for humans, and Rogue One has two computer-generated human characters: Grand Moff Tarkin and Princess Leia, looking exactly as they did when Peter Cushing and Carrie Fisher played them back in 1977 during A New Hope.

This is not the first time human beings have been made as CG characters, nor is it the first time either a deceased actor was resurrected for a film. And plenty of actors have been digitally de-aged for scenes set in the past. But putting the late Peter Cushing and the young Carrie Fisher back on-screen are probably the most prominent and advanced uses of this technology—and certainly most controversial.

Among the questions fans have been asking about the characters are:

  • Is it ethical? Is the idea of bringing actors back to the big screen something that should even be an option?
  • Why didn’t Lucasfilm recast the roles? Was it even necessary to have the faces of these characters in the film?
  • Is the technology screenworthy? Did the effects take you out of the movie in anyway?
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Of course, there are also potentially immense legal ramifications surrounding these characters, and the question of the actual process of completing these effects. These articles from Variety and Vulture do a great job breaking down each, respectively.

We contacted Industrial Light and Magic, the effects company responsible for the work, and were told they wouldn’t be talking about the CG characters publically until January. So before they get an official word out, we wanted to hear from you: What are your thoughts on Tarkin and Leia’s inclusion in Rogue One?

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Personally, when I first saw Tarkin, I was very surprised. He’s been teased in some of the preview footage, so I knew he was in the film but, I did not expect to see the character realized so vividly or playing such a prominent role. So while it did take me out of the film for a beat, I was so excited to see this iconic character back I quickly got back into the movie. Sure the effect wasn’t “perfect,” but it was damn impressive.

Once we’d seen Tarkin, I had a feeling as the film approached its ending we’d also be seeing Leia. When we did, I was hit with more... mixed emotions. Seeing Leia, in any capacity, in that moment, was the perfect way to make everything okay after all the heroic sacrifices that take place during the finale of Rogue One. She’s the visual embodiment of the fact what our heroes have given up will all be worth it.

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On the other hand, I felt the effect itself was significantly less clean than Tarkin’s. Even though you only see her for a fraction of the time, she looked significantly less real—a bit like a wax figure. Again, though, what she represented overshadowed for me.

What about you? What did you think when they first appeared? How did the CG models look to you? Do you think Disney and Lucasfilm should have recreated Peter Cushing and young Carrie Fisher for the film? And if this technology is going to be used in again in other Star Wars films, what would you like to see next—if anything?

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Entertainment Reporter for io9/Gizmodo

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DISCUSSION

I’m actually a little tired already of the “hot take” that Tarkin was bad or uncanny CGI. Two of the people we went to see the movie with didn’t have any peripheral knowledge of Peter Cushing or the fact that he’s been dead for over 20 years. They had no idea who the rest of us were talking about when we were gushing over Cushing. (Heh.)

They certainly had no idea that one of the film’s larger roles was a work of digital art.

I think most of the people claiming that CGI Tarkin was uncanny are projecting a bit. They know Cushing is dead and can’t quite accept an incredible likeness of the man moving around and interacting in a modern film.